Max Beer March 1907


“Militarismus und Antimilitarismus”

By Dr. Karl Liebknecht, Leipzig, 1907

Source: Justice 23 March 1907, p. 6
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The author is the son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, the late leader of German Social-Democracy. He inherited from his father the revolutionary ardour the unswerving devotion to the cause of this proletariat, the gift of speech, but by no means his lucidity and crispness of style. The son writes more like a German scholar while the old Liebknecht wrote with the vividness and gem-like clearness of the great French publicists of 1848.

His book, which he modestly presents in the form of a pamphlet is in fact a history of the relation of militarism to the struggles of the modern proletariat. It is the product of considerable research and reading. The chapters dealing with history and with contemporary events which form the greatest part of the book, appear to me to be better than those dealing with theory. A more uncompromising indictment of militarism has rarely been drawn up. He exposes its sins and its degrading effects, its unspeakable tortures of the poor soldier and its strain upon the financial resources of the nations. Then he deals with militarism as an instrument of repression against workmen engaged in industrial conflict, first by forcing soldiers to act as black-legs, then as executioners. Modern industrial history has furnished him with some very tragic chapters on sanguinary strikes in Italy, Belgium, France, Austria-Hungary, Switzerland, Germany and America. He then turns to the new anti-militarist movement as expressed in the resolution of the old and new International, in the various organisations of the proletarian youth in different civilised countries, and in the books and pamphlets and papers of Socialists like Hervé, and Anarchists like Nieuwenhuis. To those who have not followed up this anti-militarist movement it will be a revelation to learn how rapidly it is spreading.

The author is by no means an anti-militarist pure and simple of the Hervé type. He sees the inevitability of militarism as long as capitalism lasts. He does not demand the abolition, but the democratisation, of the armies, and the education of the German proletarian youth to self-sacrifice, to moral courage, in order to be able to withstand the pernicious effects of military life.

It is, however, curious that, though the author has taken militarism for his subject-matter, there is no clear definition of what militarism really means. Up to the last chapters the reader is left in doubt whether the author condemns training to arms for defensive purposes as militarism or merely the barrack spirit which attempts to subject civil life to military discipline and to imbue the citizens with warlike, aggressive, and Chauvinist conceptions and feelings. The last alternative is militarism, while the first is thoroughly consistent with liberty and humanity.